When I sat down to play Blizzard DOTA, I hadn’t ever played the original Defense of the Ancients mod for Warcraft 3, or the independent release League of Legends. The lure of playing as classic Blizzard characters combined with the knowledge of how much fun my friends have playing League of Legends drew me in. Luckily for me, the game is easy for beginners to pick up.
Gameplay consists of two teams of five playing against each other, and it shares the controls and UI from Starcraft II since it began life as a mod for that game. Each player picks a character from a wide selection of Warcraft, Starcraft and some Diablo heroes, which fall in to one of four roles: Tank, Damage Dealer, Support and Siege.
At early levels your team can function with just about any combo, as evidenced by my team which had three Tanks and two Siege units. I was sure we were going to have issues, but we did fine. Each side has a base and several towers outside arranged in three rows (or “lanes”). When the game starts, waves of NPC soldiers spawn and start making their way towards the other base along the lanes. The NPCs are balanced so that it takes player interaction to destroy a tower. Approaching towers can be dangerous, though, so be sure to have a buddy or a group of NPCs with you. Of course, you’ll run into other players trying to defend their towers or take yours and that’s when the fun starts!
I chose Arthas and was immediately greeted with abilities similar to Death Knights in WoW (ok, they are probably abilities from the Death Knight in Warcraft 3, but close enough). While the abilities weren’t exactly the same, if you’ve played a DK in WoW you’d instantly recognize how to use them.
My abilities included: Summoning a ghoul that fights along side you, with the option to sacrifice it for health; An ice spell called Howling Blast that freezes opponents in the area, stopping their movement in addition to damaging them; An ability called Death and Decay that reminded me of the glory days of the WoW Death Knight’s Unholy Blight as it inflicted AoE damage centered around the player; and lastly a spell called Death Grip that pulls the opponent towards you, damaging them while healing you.
I found the targeting for the aimed spells a little hard to use. Howling Blast was fairly obvious as it used a reticle, but there was an additional circle in my UI that was confusing, though it may have indicated the range of the spell. Death Grip sounded like an awesome spell, but was way too hard to use. Not only is it harder to click on the opposing player as they move around, but even when I thought I’d gotten a clear shot, the spell did not work every time (though it’s possible that it requires line of sight or has a range that was not well shown).
Overall, playing as the Lich King was a treat, but he was extremely chatty. Every time I clicked he would say something, which, while standard for an RTS, was a bit jarring for me since I’m used to the quieter MMO. There was an announcer that I’m pretty sure was Tirion Fordring doing his best Unreal Tournament impression. I guess he had so much fun in the Crusader’s Coliseum that he took up a shoutcasting job!
The reward system is fairly straightforward. Players earn experience points and gold for killing NPCs, players and destroying towers. As you level up, you unlock your four skills and upgrades for them. Gold can be spent at the store back at your base for stat upgrades or consumable items, like health potions or nets to catch your opponents in. The graphics were adequate – not spectacular, but the iconic characters looked, well, iconic. The colors were vibrant and it was easy to tell what was going on.
Incidentally, players are able to pick the color of their units. While I was playing around with this feature before the match, the game suddenly started. To my opponents, I did not intend to spend my playtime with such an awesomely pink Arthas…
Blizzard has decided to do away with mods and instead release tools to the mod community that will allow them to use Starcraft to create encapsulated games. Blizzard DOTA even has its own development track separate from Heart of the Swarm and will be released with the recently announced Blizzard Arcade.
Unfortunately, the only information we have about a release date (or about the Arcade as a whole) is that it is “coming soonish”. Personally though, I think that this could be a great addition to next years WoW Annual Pass.